How to Be an Organized Caregiver

1.

Buy a notebook with dividers or a looseleaf binder with pockets. This will hold all the information you need to keep organized, so you don't have to search through loose papers that can easily become misplaced or thrown away. Make separate sections for all contact information, prescription and medicine dosage information, medical appointments, notes and questions.

2.

Make the most of your time at the doctor's office. First, call before you leave for the appointment to see if he is on schedule to avoid sitting in the waiting room for an inordinate amount of time. Bring a tote bag filled with projects that you can get done anywhere. Pay some bills, update your pocket calendar, bring your cell phone and catch up on calls outside the waiting room or simply read a magazine or book, taking this time to relax.

3.

Type a master list of contacts. Take some time to type up a list with all pertinent telephone numbers. This list should include all medical personnel, emergency contact information, close relatives and nearby neighbors who have volunteered to help out in a pinch. Laminate this list and place one by each telephone. Don't expect to commit these numbers to memory.

4.

Find a large monthly calendar with spots large enough to enter doctor's visits and other important dates in large enough writing to read easily. Post it in an area you use frequently so that you can refer to it daily. This way, neither you nor the patient will be surprised when an appointment comes up.

5.

Rearrange cabinets so that they're accessible. If your patient is ambulatory, move glasses and plates to lower cabinets and install shelves in the lower portions of vanities to store medication, keeping child-proof locks on the handles. The patient can get simple things on her own and will feel more self-sufficient and save you a few steps in the process.

6.

Keep a home maintenance file. To save you time and to assist anyone else who might be helping out, organize a file filled with the names, telephone numbers, email addresses and the work provided of all plumbers, electricians, carpenters and other important home maintenance workers. Make notes as to whether they were timely, efficient and the quality of their work.

7.

Set up automatic bill payment. Check with your patient first, but you'll save a lot of time if you can utilize automatic monthly bill payments. This is easy if there's a set fixed monthly income and the same bills to be paid each month. Then the only task left is to take a few minutes each week to balance the checkbook.

Tips and Warnings

  • Make up a to-do list so that you don't forget anything that needs to get done. Divide the list into two categories of things that can wait and things that can't.
  • When traveling, stow all medications in your carry-on bag so that it isn't accidentally lost and there's no interruption in treatment.
  • It's not a new dilemma, but it draws much more attention than in previous decades. So many adult children and other relatives are finding themselves in the role of caregiver to an elderly or sick parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle. It's difficult to juggle the demands of someone in need with other important daily responsibilities, but there are ways to be more organized to make caregiving a bit easier.